Fun Activities to Help Toddlers Learn to Follow Directions

It can be extremely difficult for toddlers to listen to what we’re saying. There are distractions all around them; meanwhile they are learning to process many new sensory experiences. You may feel like you have to say the same thing numerous times until your child understands.

Take heart, your child is transitioning from babyhood. Imagine traveling to a country where you learned a new language. It takes time to learn a new language!

Part of toddlerhood is learning how to follow directions. The learning process isn’t always easy, but the good news is that you can help your child learn to listen by having fun!

Here are five games to play with your toddler that will actually help them learn to follow directions.

1. Follow the Leader

This game is just like it sounds! You stand in front, with your children lined up behind you, and they have to do whatever you do. You could quack like a duck, howl like a wolf, or bounce like a kangaroo. And your child will happily copy you!

This game will help your child learn to focus on you and follow what you are doing. Later, when you are trying to get their attention, you can say, “You did such a good job watching mommy when we played follow the leader. Now you need to look at me just like that because I have an important direction to give you.”

2. Simon Says

Simon Says teaches children not to just to listen, but to listen carefully. The parent (Simon) calls out directions, and the children have to follow them exactly. You might say, “Simon says, hop on one foot,” or “Simon says, spin around with a smile on your face.” If a child fails to follow the directions, they have to sit out.

When you don’t say “Simon Says” before giving a direction, your child isn’t supposed to do anything. This is the tricky part and is usually doable for kids who are three years or older. Start simple and then make the directions more and more complicated.

3. Red Light, Green Light

Red light means stop. Green light means go. It’s as simple as that. You stand at one end of the room, and your kids will stand at the other. When you yell, “Green light!” they run toward you. When you yell, “Red light!” they have to stop immediately.

Keep this game exciting by yelling “Red light!” twice in a row. If someone moves on a red light, they have to go back to the beginning. This will help your kids go from hearing common directions to actually doing them quickly.

You can transition from this game directly into real-life situations. For example, you can tell your child, “When I say, ‘Green light!’ you go. When I say, ‘Red light!’ you stop. When I say, ‘Brush teeth!’ you run upstairs and get your toothbrush. Who will win?”

4. Mother, May I?

Here is a game to teach your toddler how to follow directions and how to ask for permission. Stand at one end of the room and your kids at the other. They take turns asking you questions, such as, “Mother, may I take two leapfrom jumps?” or “Mother, may I take two giant steps?”

For instance, if your child says, “Mother, may I take three bunny hops toward you?” you can respond with, “No, but you can take 2 bunny hops toward me.” If your child fails to listen, then he can take a few steps back instead. This will help your children learn to ask questions and actually listen to the responses. Whoever reaches your end of the room first, wins.

5. Land and Sea

Use duct tape, lay down a rope, or find some other straight line. One side is land. The other side is sea. Your children not only have to remember which side is which, but they have to jump to whichever side you call. This is somewhat similar to Red Light, Green Light. While there are only two directions, you can mix things up by calling the same direction twice, or by getting fast and faster. It can honestly be very difficult! It will help your child learn to recognize simple, common directions, and carry them out as quickly as possible. If someone jumps to the wrong side, they are out.

By making learning into a game, you will help your child internalize the lesson. And you make things easier on yourself at the same time! Make sure to check out our website for more ways to making parenting a little easier. We understand!

Featured image: IG @emilyloeffelman

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